On Monday, Microsoft finally agreed to drop its appeals of the European Commission's 2004 antitrust ruling and to make certain technical information available to competitors working to make their products interoperable with Microsoft's. Reaction this week has been mixed.
Some are hailing what Market Watch calls Microsoft's "capitulation" as a wide open door for open source -- especially in the server space. Writer John Letzig has this to say:
"Open source work group server products are virtually the only alternative for users and are thus the main surviving competitive constraint on Microsoft," Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in the statement. In fact, companies who originally helped raise antitrust issues against Microsoft in Europe, such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Corp., have since begun building businesses around open source Linux software.
And at least one exec at open source ECM provider Alfresco seems pleased. This statement comes from CTO John Newton via e-mail:
It was only a matter of time before we saw Microsoft's decision to comply with the EU's antitrust ruling and it is a very positive step for the software industry in general. The benefits of open source are widely known about nowadays and the fact is that closed, proprietary models put a stop to the development and evolution of software while simultaneously creating an anti-competitive environment. By open sourcing even a very small part of its product set, Microsoft has taken an important step towards creating an open environment in which end-users can freely choose between software rather than being railroaded into the most costly one.
However, in an article entitled Microsoft and Open Source Backers: Best 'Frienemies' Forever?, Techworld reports:
Nobody believes that Microsoft has suddenly displaced IBM as the BFF -- best friend forever -- of open-source vendors. Dave Gynn, director of enterprise tools and frameworks at open-source consulting firm Optaros, said he thinks Microsoft is carefully choosing open-source partnerships that it believes will limit the methodology's overall spread.
News.com blogger (and Alfresco VP) Matt Asay falls into the "I'm not convinced" camp as well, quoting former Red Hat general counsel Mark Webbink for the proposition that the EU's ruling didn't go far enough to "open" Microsoft.
IT Business Edge's Kachina Dunn commented on the apparent dissatisfaction Tuesday, noting:
It's de rigueur among the open source elite and media... to be outraged to the point of hyperventilation that Microsoft can use its evil ways to outmaneuver their desires to reduce its power in the tech marketplace -- and then to sigh with disappointment when a door to interoperability is opened. It's all so exhausting.
It is exhausting. I get it that most in the open source world see Microsoft and its proprietary methods as inherently wrong and the worst way to do business. Don't misunderstand. But Microsoft's acquiescence in this case is most definitely progress, right? That anyone would be disappointed in or apathetic about progress doesn't make sense. It's validation -- an affirmation that one's efforts on behalf of open source are accomplishing something. Take that for what it is, and keep working.